Monday, July 14, 2014

Bad News, Your Pictures Are Gorgeous!

Because it is so boring being at these medical appointments, sometimes for half a day, I find that my mind increasingly explores rather obscure ideas while in this enforced state. This lately has been happening a lot at most of these eye appointments because they take so long what with drops upon drops and tests upon tests. I had my retina surgery in October and my cataract surgery in June on the right eye. And that eye had been tested non stop since last July. I was awaiting the verdict on how that eye was now doing a whole year later.

One of my obscure ideas took flight as I was watching everyone go through my test results on the computer with my eye test pictures. I could see the results because I was seated beside the computer. This thought was that how ironic it is that a beautiful abstract painting like test result was bad news while a dull abstract painting was good news. In the world of medicine, good art makes for bad news. This isn't only for eyes but it also true for my cancer scans when a colorful, vibrant PET scan presents the worst of all possible scenarios. A dull one means you go on to live another day.

My eye was in a picture that showed it swooping in an interesting angle and with a pleasing assortment of colors in an abstract like painting. So I suspected at once that this was not good news. In order to be good news it should not have caught my eye at all (how's that for irony?).

I don't have my eye picture but I found one on Google's image search of a swollen retina from one of these high tech scans, above. Really, I could spend hours trying to paint that in a Georges Seurat pointillist style but this high tech gadgetry can produce it in minutes with an eye scan. At left, is Seurat's painting La Parade done in pointillism (dots of color placed close to one another with the brush). It is amazing how close the two are linked stylistically.

So too when I was awaiting the results of any of my PET scans for a reoccurrence of colon cancer, I knew that a brilliant artistic one would be bad news. So I would hope for bad art instead. Below is a composite colon cancer scan which does detect cancer, again taken from Google Image Search. The bright colors giving the painting life, are in fact indicating the reverse for the patient.

I know that more and more is being done with making my unipolar depression more scientific. Up until now depression was considered more of an art in the detecting in medicine with little hard science to help out in its diagnosis and treatment. Medical scans are changing this status.

The above is a rare instance where the medical scan shows confirmation of how we perceive in our minds a medical state. How often do we hear depression described as the blues? Well, son of a gun, our brains are indeed bluer and darker if we suffer from depression.

Then there are the people in my genetic line who have gotten Alzheimer's. True, they got it very late but this is the picture of having it versus not having it, below.

The left sedate green one is a normal brain, left, whereas the multi colored brain to the right has Alzheimer's. As we laypeople grow to understand what these pictures mean, we truly will inhabit a world where one picture is worth 1,000 words. If you understand the below picture, how meaningful are any further words going to be? To me, I would prefer silence.

I am not the only person looking at medical scans and thinking of art works. In the last few years there have been art shows consisting of artists working with these images. The below image is from an art show held in 2012 "Seeing Ourselves: The Science and Art of Diagnostic Medical Imaging", which was curated by two doctors. The artist combined an MRI, photography and digital compositing to produce this image. Take the link to see the art works in that show.

Other artists in this same show explored other avenues. Below and to the left is a giclee print of the hippocampus, made from a scan. To the right is a scan of a doll. It does make me wonder if I could get ahold of my own scans and do anything artistic with them. However, I think I would rather be a little bit more removed from being a subject of testing before I explore that idea any further.

In case anyone is thinking, Oh, how can anyone call this art work, I want to put two works side by side below for your analysis. On the left is an art work based on an MRI (magnetic resonance image) done in the 2000s and on the right a painting done by Pablo Picasso in 1910. The world was shocked by Picasso's portrait when it was first shown in 1910. Does anyone really think over 100 years later that these two portraits are that far apart?  I sure don't.

But while the above works may be debated, no one wants to enact laws against exhibiting them.

The same can not be said for plastinate art works produced by a process invented in the 1970s shown below. The results tour around the world and are called Body World Tours. These are dead bodies which have been mummified, without flesh, with a plastinate procedure. A few countries have already prohibited their exhibition but most have not because of the educational value. The below are two controversial works from the show. The one to the left is two dead bodies put into a sexual position. They did not die this way. The one to the right is a dead woman with a dead fetus inside of her. Permission was fully given by the people prior to their deaths or by their survivors to this procedure and exhibition. I don't have any objection to Body World but I probably do not want to see these exhibits any more vividly than I am seeing them in these photographs.

But I think it is safe to say that the science and art worlds have joined in ways no one ever imagined possible before.

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